The 10 most beautiful things to see in Siena
Siena is a city with a medieval charm. Its historic center, divided into Terzi (districts), has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995.
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Piazza del Campo
The symbol of the city is Piazza del Campo, famous both because the Palio di Siena takes place there every summer on July 2nd and August 16th, and for its characteristic shell-shaped design, due to the steep terrain on which it was built. Here stands the Palazzo Pubblico, the ancient seat of the Government of Nine and now the headquarters of the Municipality of Siena and the Civic Museum of the city, with the Torre del Mangia beside it and, in front, a copy of the Fonte Gaia sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia (the original is preserved inside Santa Maria della Scala).
Palazzo Pubblico, Torre del Mangia, and the Civic Museum can all be visited by purchasing a combined ticket. For information on schedules and tickets, visit the Siena Municipality’s website.
It is located in Piazza del Campo, was built between 1297 and 1310 to house the Government of Nine of the Republic of Siena, and today serves as the City Hall. On the first floor, it houses the Civic Museum, where some remarkable works are exhibited, including the fresco “Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government” by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Simone Martini‘s “Maestà,” and works by Duccio di Buoninsegna, Simone Martini, Sodoma, and Beccafumi.
On the first floor, you can also visit the Teatro dei Rinnovati, while going up to the second floor, you can step out onto the Loggia dei Nove to embrace the view of Piazza del Mercato, Orto de’ Pecci, the countryside, and the surrounding hills.
Torre del Mangia
With its 87 meters (102 if you count the lightning rod), it is one of the tallest medieval towers in Italy. A symbol of freedom and emancipation from feudal power, it was erected between 1338 and 1348 and built with bricks. It takes its name from the first bell-ringer, Mangiaguadagni (Giovanni di Balduccio), known for his tendency to squander money. The bell cell at its top accommodated the “Campanone” dedicated to the Madonna Assunta in 1666. To visit the Torre del Mangia, you need to climb more than 300 steps, but it’s worth it—the view from up there is splendid!
You can purchase a single ticket or one of the integrated tickets that also allow access to other monuments such as the Civic Museum, Santa Maria della Scala, and the Pinacoteca of Siena.
For more information, visit the Siena Municipality’s website.
Siena Cathedral (Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta)
The monumental complex of Siena Cathedral includes the Cathedral itself, the Piccolomini Library, the Porta del Cielo (Gate of Heaven), the Baptistery, the Crypt, the Opera Museum, the panoramic view from the Facciatone, and the Oratorio di San Bernardino. All these museum sites can be visited with a single ticket called OPA Si Pass, which is valid for 3 days.
Siena Cathedral is one of the most famous examples of Italian Romanesque-Gothic cathedrals and houses valuable artworks inside, from the marble inlaid floor (not always accessible) to Nicola Pisano’s pulpit (13th century), and statues by Donatello and Michelangelo. Noteworthy are also the stained glass windows, the most important of which is the one by Duccio Buoninsegna (now in the Opera Museum).
The Libreria Piccolomini is located inside the Siena Cathedral and was built at the end of the 1400s to house the bibliographic collection of Pope Pius II (Enea Silvio Bartolomeo Piccolomini). It was adorned with frescoes in the early 1500s by the artist Pinturicchio, who created a cycle of frescoes depicting ten episodes from the life of Pius II.
The decorated vault displays a series of allegorical figures and mythological episodes, while the walls narrate the stories of the life of Enea Silvio Piccolomini. The most famous scene portrays the meeting between Emperor Frederick III and Eleanor of Portugal, which took place on February 24, 1452. At the center of the library, there is the sculptural complex of the Three Graces.
To visit the Libreria Piccolomini, you can purchase a single ticket or the integrated OPA Si Pass ticket, which includes all the museum sites within the Duomo complex.
For information on opening hours and ticket prices, visit: https://operaduomo.siena.it/en/visiting/
Museo dell’Opera del Duomo di Siena
The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo di Siena is located in the right nave of the “Duomo nuovo” (New Cathedral) and houses many artworks originally displayed in the Siena Cathedral. Among them are the statues from the facade by Giovanni Pisano, Donatello’s roundel with the Madonna and Child (known as the “Madonna of Forgiveness”), and most importantly, two works by Duccio di Buoninsegna, the Stained Glass for the apse and the Maestà, as well as sculptures by Donatello and Jacopo della Quercia.
In the Sala del Tesoro (Treasury Room), more than 200 sacred liturgical objects are preserved, including notable pieces such as the Reliquary of San Giovanni and the Rosa d’Oro by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. On the top floor, you can admire the “Madonna degli Occhi Grossi” by the Sienese school, while the Sala dell’Alfieri houses altarpieces by Matteo di Giovanni and Domenico Beccafumi.
To visit the Museo dell’Opera, you can purchase tickets (individual or combined) on the Opera del Duomo’s website.
Santa Maria della Scala
In front of the Siena Cathedral stands one of the oldest hospitals in Europe. Originally a place of care and hospitality for pilgrims, today it serves as a venue for exhibitions and artistic displays, as well as providing programs tailored for children. The visit unfolds across different levels of the building, allowing observers to witness the architectural and functional stratification that occurred over the centuries.
Each level of the building offers a distinct path for visitors: the ancient hospital (built at the end of the 12th century); the 4th level with the hospital’s representative rooms, leading to the Sagrestia Vecchia and the church of SS. Annunziata; the pilgrims’ ward, and the children’s art museum; the 3rd level featuring the cistern courtyard (Corticella), a pivotal point in the museum’s routes (leading to the premises of the Confraternity of S. Caterina della Notte and the granary spaces); the 1st and 2nd levels currently hosting the National Archaeological Museum and the section “Siena. The story of the city from its origins to the Middle Ages.” Finally, the 5th, 6th, and 7th levels delineate the path within the women’s hospital.
For information on opening hours and tickets, visit: https://www.santamariadellascala.com/info-visita
The Museo Civico (Civic Museum) is located inside Palazzo Pubblico, in Piazza del Campo. It houses artworks and artifacts related to the history of the city, distributed among its main halls: Sala del Risorgimento (Risorgimento Hall), Sala della Balìa, Sala del Concistoro, Sala del Mappamondo (World Map Hall), Sala dei Nove (Nine’s Hall), and Sala dei Pilastri (Pillars’ Hall), in addition to the Loggia dei Nove (Loggia of the Nine) at the back of Palazzo Pubblico.
The Sala del Risorgimento or Sala di Vittorio Emanuele II features frescoes by Pietro Aldi and Luigi Mussini, as well as some Risorgimento memorabilia, including a uniform worn by Vittorio Emanuele II. The Sala della Balìa houses frescoes by Spinello Aretino and Martino di Bartolomeo, while the Sala del Concistoro contains frescoes by Domenico Beccafumi depicting Public Virtues. In the Sala del Mappamondo, you can see two frescoes by Simone Martini and an artwork by Duccio di Buoninsegna.
However, the most significant work is located in the Sala dei Nove or Sala della Pace (Hall of the Nine or Peace Hall). It is the Allegory of Good and Bad Government, a cycle of frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, representing the political allegory of the government of the “Nine.” The Sala dei Pilastri (Pillars’ Hall) offers works dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries, including a fragment of a stained glass window created by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. The visit concludes with the Loggia dei Nove (Loggia of the Nine), a balcony located at the back of Palazzo Pubblico, offering views of Orto de’ Pecci and the southern part of the city.
You can purchase tickets online at https://www.comune.siena.it/node/478
The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena is located in Via San Pietro inside the Brigidi and Buonsignori palaces. It is one of the most important Italian museums, renowned especially for its paintings on gold background dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. The museum exhibits paintings from the Sienese school of the 14th and 15th centuries, including works by Duccio di Buoninsegna, Simone Martini, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Sassetti, and Francesco di Giorgio. On the first floor, there are works from the 16th century, including pieces by Sodoma, Beccafumi, and Mannerists. On the third floor, there are works from the Spannocchi-Piccolomini Collection, which includes Flemish, Italian, and German artists.
For information about opening hours and ticket prices, please visit the website of the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena.
Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden) and Herbarium
The Orto Botanico (Botanical Garden) and Herbarium are located in the Valle di Sant’Agostino and encompass more than 2000 plant species distributed in different environments: aquatic environments, rock garden, fernery, wild orchids, and a farm area (with vines, olive trees, and fruit trees). The Botanical Garden can be visited independently or with guided tours.
For information about opening hours and tickets, please visit https://www.simus.unisi.it/musei/mb/orari-biglietti.